John Stossel

Stossel: Super Bowl of Welfare

Sports stadiums get billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies.

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Mercedes-Benz Stadium is home to the Atlanta Falcons and the site of this year's Super Bowl. Costing $1.5 billion, it's one of the most expensive stadiums in America.

The owner of Atlanta's football team, billionaire Arthur Blank, persuaded Atlanta officials to force taxpayers to pay for more than $700 million in subsidies for his stadium.

John Stossel says he understands why politicians subsidize stadiums. "They like going to games, and like telling voters, 'I brought a team to our town!'" says Stossel.

He also understands why billionaires take the money, "if politicians are giving money away, Blank's partners would consider him irresponsible not to take it."

And when it comes to already-rich people getting poorer people to fund their stadiums, Atlanta is not unusual. The Oakland Raiders got $750 million of taxpayer money to move the Raiders to Las Vegas.

"In the last two decades…taxpayers across the country have spent nearly $7 billion on [NFL] stadiums," according to a Huffington Post article.

In fact "12 teams … actually turned a profit on stadium subsidies alone," according to a Fox News report.

Politicians claim their subsidies are "an investment." They argue the economic benefits a stadium will bring a city outweigh the cost. Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said, "It really is a benefit to us that really could spill over into something."

Stossel says this "spillover is bunk." Numerous economic studies have shown that stadiums are a bad investment for taxpayers.

One by George Mason University concludes, "Despite the many millions of dollars spent on professional sports, little or none of that money makes its way back to the taxpayers who subsidize professional sports teams." In fact "… sports teams may actually hurt economic growth."

Economist J.C. Bradbury points out that while money spent at football games is the "seen benefit, the unseen cost is that those people would otherwise be spending their money elsewhere in the local communities. At the local bar there's one less bartender. There was one less waitress hired at another restaurant. A movie theater that had one less theater full."

Stossel reminds everyone, "When politicians brag about their stadium and the many economic benefits, let's also remember all the jobs they destroyed and taxpayer money they squandered."

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The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel; his independent production company, Stossel Productions; and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.